How Credit Card Scammers Guess Your Card Number

Imagine your wife opening up your credit card statement and finding a $159.00 charge listed for an online flower and gift shop. Your wife does not recall receiving flowers or even gifts from you in the last several months. Who got the $159.00 worth of gifts? Each time she called the number listed with the charge she only gets voice mail for the gift shop. An online search didn’t produce much more information. All she knows at this point is that it wasn’t her who received gifts and you have a lot of hard questions to answer when you get home. Believe it or not this will be only the beginning of your problems today.

Your credit card number is very valuable, and is highly prized by thieves. Today, your credit card number isn’t worth just one good account; it could be worth many more useable numbers. In fact, cash is so “yesterday”. This breed of thieves wants the ID and credit card numbers in your wallet far more than the $20.00 in cash you are carrying. These credit thieves work so diligently that by the time you receive credit fraud alerts or see mystery charges on your statement, your account number could have been leveraged into many other accounts ripe for fraudulent pickings!

Ever meet someone who you would describe as having “too much time on their hands”? That thought may cross your mind once you hear what the modern day credit card thief does with your stolen credit card number.

How do they get credit card numbers?
There are many ways to collect credit card numbers. Where ever your credit card information is used there is a potential that the number will be stolen, even with the precautions merchants and banks take. Perhaps someone stole your mail, went through your trash, copied your number while completing a business transaction, or stole your wallet. Obtaining that initial good credit card number is the thieves’ critical first step and they can be very resourceful in getting it.

What will one good credit card number get you?
A lot more than one credit card’s worth of purchases. Apparently, one trick is to verify a good number with a small purchase. The thieves may even immediately credit back that small charge if the account is good. Once verified, that the number is good the thieves continue to use the first 12 numbers of the card and simply start testing the card using 0000 for the last four digits and keep working their way up. How do they test the numbers? Through sham companies they set up.

Where will they use credit card numbers?
Peter White, a bicycle shop owner, recounted on his website his experience with credit card number scammers. Scammers repeatedly tried to use their stolen numbers to buy bicycle equipment, but White’s diligence in following credit card security practices prevented the deception. Not all of the millions of merchants who accept credit cards follow basic security and fraud prevention guidelines. Yes, there are merchants who do not ask for the 3 or 4 digit security code, ID, or a signature. Think about your own face to face shopping transactions. How many cashiers ask you for ID or check the credit card signature line? Shopping online provides an additional degree of anonymity. With the same patience and determination the thieves showed in guessing legitimate credit card numbers they seek out merchants who don’t ask questions and simply complete the sale.

What should you do to protect yourself?
First understand why it is important to take steps in preventing this from happening to you. Fraudulent activity on your accounts may be insured by the issuer, but the activity could lead to temporary conditions, such as over limit fees, that can affect your credit rating and require months of corrective work. You may not be able to prevent fraudulent activity 100% of the time, but you can make it difficult for thieves.

What to do in the event of credit card fraud.

How to report credit card fraud
Consumer Reports
Credit Card Scams
Questions and answers about credit card fraud

Warning signs

=Be sure to protect the 3 or 4 digit “security code” on back and your PIN number. If a thief has the matching security code or PIN number for a credit account number many more doors are opened for fraudulent purchases.

=Be sure your browser is in secure mode while you shop online. Look for the padlock symbol on the bottom right corner.

=Sign up for any truly free fraud alerts that your credit card issuer will email to you. That will speed up the process of detecting fraudulent activity. Reviewing your statements online will also speed things up.

=Protecting credit card related material is important too. Be sure to follow up if you don’t get a statement and to shred anything you throw away.

=Aggressively and quickly follow up on any mysterious charges on your credit card statement or when you receive credit fraud alerts, even if there are mysterious charges under $1.00.

=Report it immediately. Even though it is very inconvenient, be sure to have your card number changed.

=Be sure to read all parts of your purchasing agreement when ordering online. Uncheck whatever you do not agree to. This is a common place for additional charges or subscriptions to be added on.

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